Posts Tagged spirit

Power

People often ask me about power – in Pagan terms. This can mean any number of things, and I’ve written about some of them in the past, from spell-power to power-over… magic, ultimately. I suspect the question refers to magical power in a Harry Potter sense more than a neoPagan manner, but it’s still valid, and often hard to talk about without feeling embarrassed. So I’m happy to explore ideas.

Sometimes, though, the hardest power to recognise, learn about and hold on to is your own. Your own life-force, yes, but also your own unique energy.

We all have this. It’s what makes us ourselves, evolved from our own life experiences, skills and passions. Not just our basic energy to get up every day and do our thing, but what keeps our life worth living.

I realized a while ago that I had to take back my power, after illness, divorce, learned behaviour… so many negative experiences, in which I’d given so much of myself away. But then I somehow forgot this lesson, as my ongoing illness made it increasingly hard to believe. I let myself fall into powerlessness, as fear, anxiety, depression and general malaise pulled me back down.

Fortunately (I promise!), when you’re at your lowest ebb, the only way to go is up. But if you haven’t sat for a while in that dark place, it’s hard to learn what brought you there, and how to keep yourself climbing back.

I’m remembering lately how I practised playing with my ‘power’ back when I first started on this Pagan path. Little magics, such as doing my best to maintain a daily practice, set a great foundation. Reminders and tricks keep my mind aware that this power exists and that I can access it – thus helping me to reconnect with the world and stick one in the eye of the nasty thoughts that tell me I can’t!

As Pagans, as those who openly work with ‘magic’, we can certainly allow ourselves to play and see what works for us. There’s no need to feel foolish, or that it’s ‘not real’ – we know that it is, as we see the effects. Whether these be put down to psychological trickery or some other ‘rational’ explanation doesn’t really matter; the proof is in the result.

Daily practice is a lovely thing. I tell all my students to try and maintain it. But every single person has days when they forget, or when life gets in the way… and that’s ok! We just have to pick it up and start again.

Make little rituals to keep you reminded throughout the day, that you still have your power. A lot of this is dependent on mindfulness, pausing to really focus on these tiny spells, but that also helps bring you back to yourself. I’ve often done these in public, with a secret smile as my apparently ‘normal’ activities are actually far more.

So, small ideas:

  • Take ‘me’ time with your tea break. Stir your drink clockwise, honouring the restorative strength that it will bring to you, and then be aware of that as you drink it down.
  • Light a little candle and sit with it for a few minutes. Feel the warmth and light from this delicate flame. Feel the flame inside you.
  • Pay attention to your breathing. Slow it down, or keep it regular – this is great to practice when exercising! Breath is your life energy, after all. It proves you’re still here and doing.
  • If you have a piece of special jewellery that you wear for luck, hold on to that as a reminder of what’s important to you. Remember why.
  • Be tactile. Feel your feet on the floor, or reach out to touch a tree as you pass by. The earth is always around us, holding us up. Pause to feel the air around you, the sun on your face… the elements that we hold within and around us.

A big aspect of taking back and holding on to your personal power is also doing things for you. What activities do you do that really fire you up? Not for anyone else (although loved ones may enjoy your shenanigans!), but purely and completely you? What makes you bounce with enthusiasm, inside and out?

I had a time of being told to ‘stop being silly’ or ‘that’s not really you’ with regard to certain activities I liked – but no, I did actually enjoy them! Naysayers or controlling folk can project themselves so hard that it’s difficult to tear your own truth away. Yes, I like a particular type of music – so I’ll listen to it, and dance around to express that! Cheesy movies that make me laugh, fun books that engross my mind, trivial computer games, creating in my own style… whatever it is that’s your thing.

Fear and shame pull power away. Stand still and breath, saying quietly but firmly: ‘NO’. Imagine a hand held up as a barrier. This can be an incredibly powerful act. Reaffirm your Self. And if you’ve forgotten quite what that is, feel free to explore, to try things out, see what feels good and what doesn’t work for you. Be honest. As you learn what’s yours again, you’ll find others love when you share that energy. You will, in turn, inspire them as you’re inspired.

As we re-call our own power, it helps us to recognise when it falters, or when others try to push it down. There’s no need for anger, although such times can be frustrating – laughter can be a great deterrent.Recognising what drags you down also helps, as you work to find what protects against that.

Keeping hold of yourself can take practice, especially in such a busy world with so many demands on us, but it’s essential if we are to walk our own way, in our own truth, on our own adventures.

PS: Today, I actually have very little physical power, and a rather furry brain. But I wanted to prove that I could make something worth sharing – so here it is. Doing my best, in the knowledge that my readers can too x

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Moving

I don’t know how to start this.

It’s been an age. I feel like I’ve been in a holding pattern for the last year. Lots to overcome or work through in life and health, but now feeling the determination again to move, to do, to speak up…

One of the worst aspects of being pretty much unable to cope with anything much of the time due to my mental and physical issues was the lack of ability to write. Obviously I could if I wanted… but I just didn’t want to. I couldn’t bring myself to even open the laptop. And if I did, the words didn’t flow. I felt like I’d be just banging a drum randomly, making noise but with no sense or feeling behind it.

Writing has always been my outlet, my creativity. To not have that was like having one of my senses go dark. Alone, unable to be heard, unable to connect… I’d lost something of myself.

Then at the end of last Summer, a wise friend told me that Spirit was telling me to write again. That I had to. She’d been told to tell me. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but hey – who am I to question?

So, like a cripple learning to walk again using battered and weak limbs, I began. Just notes here and there, but as I became absorbed in research for upcoming books, I felt the flame flicker and begin to burn brighter. It had never gone out completely, but had been smothered, almost, by a miasma of depression or (unhelpful) medication.

The fact that I’m pushing, doing, feeling the Awen again, is itself a huge inspiration. I’m forcing myself to reach for it, and it’s there, waiting. I’m still myself, at the bottom of the pit, a flare of bright amidst the darkness.

Yesterday, I started pushing in earnest. Emails were sent to restart projects, research continues… and I dared to share links to my books again. Resulting in ‘Facing the Darkness’ going back to #1 in its category on Amazon.

This is a relatively small thing, but to me, it’s huge. I’m in such august company on that list, and people are reading my words and hearing me… I’m able to reach out again. What I have to say is worth something. When in the worst low places, that’s impossible to believe, that you’re worth anything at all.

Today, I took a single picture while out walking the dogs. I’ve used that to restart my Inspiration blog, Drops of Awen. Just one post a day, no word limit, to share a little of what inspires me. Also, to kick me into actively seeking out decent inspiration that’s worth sharing!

It’s foggy outside today. We’re still mid-winter. But I’m seeing many articles about Brigit in the run-up to Imbolc. May that wise lady of inspiration guide me, as I move forward into the year ahead.

Much love, my friends. Thank you so much for your patience and help through this darkest of times.

Onward.

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Fantasy in Reality

I love fantasy. You might have guessed from previous posts, but I’ve always been an avid reader – stories fuel my life. Fantasy is a big part of this, be it the warped dystopian worlds of current ‘trendy’ fiction, the lost 1920s worlds of Agatha Christie, or (of course) Papa Tolkien. There are bandwagons and there are original writers who explore and subvert. All have something to say.

I’ve been seeing a lot of social media lately, however, in which people are looking at fantasy more and more as escapism. The world is a difficult place, and we need somewhere ‘safe’ to retreat to, somewhere better, just for a while.

This is completely fine. It’s an agreed function of those same stories, after all, from the fairytales of childhood to the myths of legend: to lose ourselves in the lives of others, to forget our problems, to imagine alternatives (potentially involving dragons). We need heroes when life seems just mundane, or when our own lives seem less than magical.

But it worries me a little when escapism becomes the sole function of fantasy, or fiction generally. It’s ‘just’ escapism, if you will. The story is denigrated, the humans experiences and lessons passed on as nothing more than fairytale… while missing the obvious truth that ‘fairytales’ are some of the most powerful stories of all.

Or we actively seek to live in such realms as an alternative to this one, like a reenactor who’s forgotten that he’s returned to work on a Monday and reaches for his sword… only to find a mobile phone.

Pagan folk speak of having ‘a foot in both worlds’ – meaning the world of spirit and this everyday realm – but that still requires a solid understanding and awareness of both. It’s advisable to not choose one over another, because that way lies madness. Perspective is crucial, but it can, of course, be easily forgotten with the wonder of spirit seems clearly preferable to the deluge of utility bills, or when the office seems more important than the home.

While recognising the (occasionally satirical) aspects of this world in those of fantasy, it’s certainly a good idea to notice the magical, fantastic parts of our everyday homelands. After all, these are what inspired the fantasy in the first place: London for Ankh-Morpork, perhaps, or Middle England for Middle Earth. We walk the streets of fantasy every day, in our own lives.

I’ve encouraged others to explore the heroic in themselves – and always receive the response ‘Oh, there’s nothing special about me’… followed by the most amazing story of something they’ve accomplished or felt.

We’re not encouraged to see the everyday as fantastic, because we take it for granted. Yet when telling our stories to another person, we’re surprised by their reactions, as they listen wide-eyed and ask questions in enthusiasm. Perspective again – everything seems normal from inside our heads, but may be absolutely marvellous to others. And certainly worth remembering and retelling.

We walk with a foot in both worlds every day. It’s just up to us to open our senses to see.

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Dreams of Space

J.M. Barrie had a wonderful turn of phrase. “You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming?”

Sometimes dreams are so vivid, you wake up not knowing where you are. The world’s turned upside down as you’re forcibly pulled from one world to another. Sometimes you fight to return to a wonderful dream; others, you’re fighting to escape.

Last night, I had a nightmare so vivid that I woke up utterly confused, the realness of it so complete that I was almost bereft – at the same time as feeling glad, in the way of children repeating ‘It was just a dream, it was just a dream.’

I was searching for a place – my place. In the dream, this was a room that I had the key for, but which I kept being misdirected to. Rather than trying to escape from anywhere, I was sent wandering in circles through many different places, continually questing to find my place, where I could rest. Frustrated and tired, I found the room, turning that key in the door. It was beautiful, I was awed. But there were others there. It wasn’t actually mine at all.

Now, I have no doubt that psychologist-types out there will be making of that what they will. But the sense of that dream stayed with me long after I’d awoken. How often are we searching for our own space in life, whether this is a quest for freedom or just safety? Can any physical place be truly ‘ours’ – or is this just a state of mind? Or even nothing more than a dream?

The question of whether we can truly be ‘free’ is a philosophical debate that has run for many years, and will no doubt run for many more. Sartre’s ‘Hell is other people’ (from ‘No Exit‘) deals with it in terms of society and claustrophobia; the modern thriller movie ‘The Cube‘ unpacks the question of why we are here at all. Both are nightmarish, forcing the audience to face difficult concepts, but ones that we live with every day.

‘Freedom’ may be subjective, but I’m thankful for the fact that in the society in which I live at this time, I have enough freedom to be living more or less as I wish, with those I love, in a home of my own. And that I’m free to be writing this without fear of censure. Each of those things is a gift, which it’s easy to take for granted.

But our own ‘space’ is a little harder to define – for me, anyway. For some folk, it’s simple – demarcate with your ‘Stuff’, preferred decor, clear boundaries. Yet if you live cheek by jowl with family members, in a small apartment, in a loft, on a boat, or even in prison, personal space is brief and precious. It can be as necessary as locking oneself into the bathroom for a few minutes, or closing a door while housemates have gone out for a while. But such space is temporary. Energies inevitably ebb and flow, like strong-smelling cooking or loud music through a thin wall. That physical area may be ‘yours’, but others will intrude (knowingly or involuntarily). This may drive us to varying levels of crazy, but it still happens and we have to deal with it.

Being aware of boundaries is fairly crucial to Druidry. Where ‘you’ end and someone/thing else ‘begins’ – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, politically, energetically…

The ground inside a ritual circle is approximately of the same composition as the ground outside – except when we set the intention of that space through our work. And that circle isn’t just a circle at all: it’s a sphere, demarcating ground above, ground beneath and air around. Within which we stand – alone, and/or working with the combined energies and presences of others. That’s a lot of balls to juggle, yet that’s one of the basics of Pagan practice. No wonder beginners get overwhelmed easily.

But this, I think, illustrates personal and shared space. I may have ‘cast’ the circle, but that space is not truly ‘mine’ in terms of possession. I don’t ‘own’ the earth or the creatures in it, the trees around, birds, insects. Those innocently passing by have no idea what I’m doing. One fellow blithely wandered right through a ritual circle I was working on recently – with a cheery “hello”, but entirely ignorant. I had to laugh and carry on, factoring this in. No space can truly be ‘yours’ (nor truly ‘clean’), nor should such an impossibility be attempted.

But the space can be set for purpose. If that purpose is peace, safety, security, somewhere you can breath out and rest; or a workplace, designed to inspire thought and ideas. You cast your intention, pattern it with physical items that help (including such sensory tricks as incense or lighting), and voila – a cosy living room, inviting kitchen or sensual (yet restful) bedroom.

As humans, as individuals, we need to express ourselves and feel comfortable in places where we spend our time. Notably, our workplaces: a Dilbert-style office cubby-hole can be made personal and inviting (despite the best efforts of Health & Safety!). Our cars reflect our music tastes, or even our spirituality with rear-view mirror ornaments. I have a tiny Hedwig soft-toy under the dash, given to me as a ‘safe travel’ blessing.

And of course, there’s our bodies themselves, adorned with chosen clothing and jewellery, tattoos and perfumes. Exactly the same as our ancestors did, and our future ancestors will. We set our bodies as our own space, yes – but even this can be ‘shared’ (as anyone who’s allowed themselves to be ‘ridden’ by Deity will confirm). We rarely face the world naked; when we do, that in itself is a powerful statement, of both vulnerability and strength.

I think that my dream was reflecting my current concern about my work-life balance – or lack thereof. While I have set out ‘office-space’ in my home, what I do necessitates long hours, which is wonderful when inspiration hits in the small hours of morning or evening. But it’s very hard to walk away from. Conscientiousness goes too far – I find myself fretting over jobs not done, making it difficult to switch off and truly relax. My energy suffers, and I end up easily depleted and fatigued.

Ultimately, I need to reaffirm my boundaries. This does not mean panicking when others ‘invade my space’, whether physically or via telephone or email. I love what I do. But I need to reclaim my own space to recharge, reconnect, remember. Or I won’t be any use to anyone at all, let alone myself.

We can’t lose our sense of selves if we wish to be effective energy-workers – or workers at all. If we are truly aiming to help others, we need to be strong and fuelled, yet flexible and ready for anything. Because the Universe will throw it at us, if it thinks we need that wake-up challenge.

So I woke up. I will again tomorrow. With those I love, in my home, working within my community. I have the key to my space. Now to honour myself as I honour you all.

Questing & Magic: Painting inspired by my book (copyright Kenneth Walker 2012, may not be reproduced without permission)

 

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